ROCK ON: AN OFFICE POWER BALLAD by Dan Kennedy (Algonquin), 214 pages, $16.95 paper. Rating: NNN
Note to all you suits in town for Canadian Music Week: Dan Kennedy’s got your number.
The former mid-level marketing executive’s bitter and very funny account of his experience at a fast-dying music label (Atlantic, though he never mentions it by name) zeros in on everything that’s wrong with the old music biz.
His roughly 18-month tenure begins in 2002, when the company is still in major denial. Its mighty emperors, the chief execs, may have no clothes but they do have astronomical salaries, negligible working hours and really dumb ideas about how to battle the Internet for supremacy.
Kennedy, though he’s obviously smart and can write, had one tiny music credential prior to snagging this job – nothing that could justify his getting in the door of a major label.
He uses his one and only contact to finesse his way into a marketing position, hanging on desperately as he miraculously fulfills his assignments to develop ads for Phil Collins, Jewel (who’s sold a song to Schick for a razor commercial) and others. The hilarious chapter describing a video shoot for rapper Fat Joe shows just how easy it is for a know-nothing to fake it and power-trip at the same time.
There are memorable encounters with the likes of slick Simon LeBon, really mean girls the Donnas and hard-to-pin-down members of the Darkness. Kennedy can’t believe his proximity to celebrity – and then the inevitable happens and the layoffs begin.
Strangely, the centrepiece of Rock On winds up being an account of an incendiary Iggy Pop concert at Roseland. Kennedy’s implied point is that current music acts are just so pale, so uncommitted by comparison.
Don’t count on the major labels to do anything about that, now or in the future. They won’t be around much longer.